WASHINGTON — The FBI director is telling states to make sure they are on top of their voter registration systems, saying would-be hackers are “poking around.”
While James Comey testified Wednesday to Congress that there haven’t been any additional successful hacks, there have been scans and attempts that indicate “bad actors” are trying to see where they can get in.
“There have been a variety of scanning activities, which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities as well as some attempted intrusions at voter database registrations beyond those we knew about in July and August,” Comey told a House committee during an FBI oversight hearing.
Comey was being asked about a warning the FBI sent to states in June, and two successful intrusions into voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona.
In no cases was information changed, nor were any actual voting systems at risk. Comey reiterated to Congress that those actual voting systems are not connected to the Internet and are decentralized, making broad hacking of the election nearly impossible.
Hacking attempts are also not a cause for panic. Voting registration databases have always been appealing targets for hackers, who can use personal information for financial crime. This cycle, there is a concern that Russian government-linked hackers are also looking to sow distrust in the US election system as a way to undermine Western power.
Without commenting on Russia’s specific activity, Comey said the takeaway is for states to make sure they are secure.
“We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on and to get the best information they can from (the Department of Homeland Security) just to make sure their systems are secure,” Comey said. “Because there’s no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around.”
On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said 18 states have requested cyberassistance from his department for voting systems.